Celebrating 40 years of flying in the Pacific Northwest with Horizon Air
Horizon Air History
Horizon Air was formed in response to the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978. One of the results of this act was that many larger airlines abandoned routes within the Northwest. To fill this gap in the market, entrepreneur Milt Kuolt and a group of venture capitalists founded Horizon in Seattle in September 1981. Horizon brought together 36 enthusiastic employees and a fleet consisting of two leased Fairchild F-27 turboprop aircraft to begin service between Yakima, Pasco, and Seattle.
In the early 1980s, Horizon grew rapidly and in 1982, Horizon acquired Air Oregon, which had served the state of Oregon for a number of years. In 1983, Horizon acquired Utah-based Transwestern Airlines, which served the intermountain West, including Boise. Both these acquisitions expanded Horizon’s system map considerably.
In early 1984, Horizon became a public company with an initial stock offering of 750,000 shares. The stock sale was an immediate success and was used to retire debt and provide funding for future aircraft acquisition.
Alaska Air Group Acquires Horizon Air
By 1986 the company’s proven track record attracted the attention of larger airlines. In the end, Horizon was acquired by Seattle-based Alaska Air Group, Inc., a holding company that includes Alaska Airlines. While remaining independently managed, Horizon gained the competitive advantage of connections with us, her sister carrier, and partnership in our Mileage Plan frequent flier program. Along with Alaska, Horizon also code-shares with a wide range of other airline partners.
On Jan. 1, 2011, Horizon shifted to a capacity purchase agreement (CPA) business model, which is the regional airline industry standard. Under this arrangement, Horizon operates and maintains its aircraft while Alaska is responsible for scheduling, marketing and pricing all flights. The change also included the rebranding of all Horizon aircraft to feature the Alaska brand.
Today, Horizon Air maintains an operational fleet of 52 Bombardier Q400 aircraft with an average age of 10 years. In 2016, the airline announced the purchase of 33 Embraer E175 aircraft, the first of which was delivered in spring 2017.
Horizon is about 4,000 employees strong and serves more than 45 cities in Alaska, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Alberta and British Columbia, Canada.
The airline has a general office in Seattle and a primary maintenance base in Portland, Oregon, with additional maintenance facilities in Boise, Idaho; Seattle, Washington; Medford, Oregon; Redmond/Bend, Oregon, and Spokane, Washington.
Celebrating 40 Years Of Connecting The Pacific Northwest
To commemorate Horizon’s momentous day, a special flight will fly the same route that started it all on Sept 1, 1981. This time, it will be flown on Horizon’s “Meatball” plane, a custom-painted retro-themed aircraft, which will fly some of its beloved employees and guests from Seattle to Yakima.
“We’re flying our meatball livery on the same route Horizon flew 40 years ago,” said Capt. Perry Solmonson, 40th Anniversary Committee Chair. “This is a huge milestone for us and this anniversary flight recognizes not only the hard and successful work accomplished to date, but also celebrate our up-and-coming team members of the future.”
The Alaska Air Group offers seamless connections between Alaska Airlines (mainline) and Horizon (regional) through a capacity purchase agreement (CPA). Alaska Airlines markets and sells tickets for all Alaska Air Group flights. Alaska establishes routes and schedules for Horizon and pays Horizon to operate the regional flights. In addition to the Horizon regional flights, Skywest Airlines operates flights where Horizon needs additional capacity.
The magic of this relationship is that when Alaska Airlines wants to move into a new market that is unproven, Alaska can fly the Horizon 76-passenger E-175 jets until the route matures. When the demand for that route grows, Alaska can replace the regional jet with a mainline Airbus A320 or Boeing 737 jet.
Horizon Air Highlights
- Horizon flies to more than 50 destinations in our route network.
- First airline to serve Starbucks coffee in the sky.
- Known for delivering performance with excellence and developing industry-leading innovations to create safe, incomparable flying experiences.
- Flies 32 Bombardier Q400 aircraft—perfectly suited for serving smaller communities in the PNW—and 30 Embraer E175 aircraft.
- Well known for offering FREE beer and wine aboard Horizon flights.
The Horizon Air Aircraft Fleet
From its humble beginnings 40 years ago with a pair of second-hand turboprops, the carrier has grown to 62 aircraft. The table below shows the historic fleet at Horizon Air:
The current Horizon Air fleet consists of the Bombardier Q400 turboprop and Embraer E-175 regional jets.
The E-175 regional jet features 12 first class, 12 premium economy and 52 economy seats. Horizon Air flies 30 of the E-175 jets and Skywest Airlines flies the other 32 under contract to Horizon Air. Horizon’s Embraer 175 regional jets are equipped with an in-flight Wi-Fi and streaming entertainment system.
Forty years ago, Milt Kuolt, Joe Clark and Bruce McCaw had a vision – to start a regional airline in the Pacific Northwest. That vision was not limited to operating flights but doing so with the hospitality of the Pacific Northwest where passengers receive great service. Five years later, this local airline became a wholly-owned subsidiary of Alaska Airlines and together connects large and small cities in the west.
Today, Horizon celebrates 40 years of dedicated service in the Alaska Airlines route system. Happy 40th-anniversary Horizon Air!